Algae can draw energy from other plants

Flowers need water and light to grow. Even children learn that plants use sunlight to gather energy from earth and water. Members of Professor Dr. Olaf Kruse’s biological research team at Bielefeld University have made a groundbreaking discovery that one plant has another way of doing this. They have confirmed for the first time that a plant, the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, not only engages in photosynthesis, but also has an alternative source of energy: it can draw it from other plants. This finding could also have a major impact on the future of bioenergy.
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Ethylene of no effect: Why peppers do not mature after picking

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(Phys.org) — The plant hormone ethylene lets green tomatoes ripen even after the harvest, whereas the closely related chili peppers show no such effect. Researchers from the Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology wanted to understand the reason for that and compared gene expression levels and metabolic pathways of both plant species. Understanding the ripening process is important to minimize the amount of food that festers on the way from the producer to the consumer.
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Researchers demonstrate control of devastating cassava virus in Africa

ST. LOUIS, MO, August 7, 2012— An international research collaboration recently demonstrated progress in protecting cassava against cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), a serious virus disease, in a confined field trial in Uganda using an RNA interference technology. The field trial was planted in November 2010 following approval by the National Biosafety Committee of Uganda. The plants were harvested in November 2011 and results were published in the August 1, 2012 issue of the journal Molecular Plant Pathology . These results point researchers in the right direction as they develop virus-resistant cassava varieties preferred by farmers in Eastern Africa.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 250 million people derive at least 25 percent of their daily calorie intake from the starchy cassava tuberous roots. In the East African countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi and Malawi, 63 percent of households also sell cassava products to earn income for their families. It is estimated that in the next 15 years, cassava will constitute the second most important source of income for more than 125 million people in East Africa.

Cassava brown streak disease is a major problem because it destroys the edible tuberous roots, but visual symptoms on leaves and stems are sometimes difficult to detect. This means unexpected losses for farmers at harvest, with potential devastating impact on families that depend on cassava for food security. Since farmers preserve cassava cuttings in the fields for the next crop, the disease is passed on to the next growing season. Around the Lake Victoria region in Uganda, where an epidemic of the disease is rapidly spreading, many farmers have been forced to abandon the cultivation of cassava. The urgency posed by this disease demands that appropriate tools be employed and interventions applied to solve the problem.

Researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and two partner institutions in Africa, the National Crops Resources Research Institute in Uganda (NaCRRI) and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), are working to solve the problem for African farmers through a collaborative project called Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA). The VIRCA project has been developing cassava with enhanced resistance to cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and cassava mosaic disease (CMD).

“The collaboration is showing progress toward helping smallholder farmers combat these devastating diseases,” said Dr. Anton Bua, the Ugandan Cassava Research Team Leader in charge of field trials and communication for the project in East Africa.

“In Uganda, we eat cassava two or three times per day. Restoring and improving cassava productivity will be critical to the continued economic progress of the country and the region,” said Dr. Titus Alicai, project lead, National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI).

Experts with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have expressed concern that CBSD is on the verge of becoming an epidemic in parts of Africa. A press release issued by the FAO last November called for an urgent increase in funding, research, training, surveillance and other measures to help African farmers and breeders. The concern is strong because cassava contributes to household incomes and food security more than any other single crop in some countries.

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VIRCA is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard Buffett Foundation, the Monsanto Fund and USAID from the American People.

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

 

Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research at the Danforth Center will feed the hungry and improve human health, preserve and renew the environment, and enhance the St. Louis region and Missouri as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants and contract revenue from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center invites you to visit its website, www.danforthcenter.org, featuring interactive information on the Center scientists, news, education outreach and “Roots & Shoots” blog help keep visitors up to date with Center’s current operations and areas of research.

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Herbivores select on floral architecture in a South African bird-pollinated plant

Inflorescence architecture of Babiana ringens may have evolved in response to selective pressures from both herbivores and pollinators

Floral displays, such as the color, shape, size, and arrangement of flowers, are typically thought to have evolved primarily in response to selection by pollinators—for animal-pollinated species, being able to attract animal vectors is vital to an individual plant’s reproductive success. But can herbivores also exert similarly strong selective forces on floral characters? Read more

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